Zihle is am “ordinary” science student in South Africa. But when she gets wind of an exciting science story or challenge, she transforms into “Agent Zee” and investigates.
Zee is the lead character in a new series of science cartoons created by Jive Media in South Africa. Their latest product comes after a series of other cartoons – with different characters – developed to communicate topics such as biotechnology, astronomy and science in Antarctica to young readers.
“We have to tread really carefully not to scare our young readers away with the science in these storylines,” Robert Inglis of Jive Media told delegates at the 2009 African Science Communication Conference. “The idea is to create a compelling story so that they will read it without even thinking about learning science.”
Zee’s first great adventure deals with mass extinction events in the past and for this the Jive Media team collaborated with South African dinosaur expert, Dr Adam Yates from the University of the Witwatersrand.
They plan to do at least six cartoons in the first series, made possible by funding from South Africa’s Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA).
Jive Media also developed two comics called “Mission MeerKAT”, about children in the little rural town of Carnarvon in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, finding out more about plans to build a mega telescope just outside their town. Like many of their other cartoons, Mission MeerKAT was translated into the local language spoken by the majority of people in this rural community, in this case Afrikaans. The Mission MeerKAT cartoons (1 & 2) will be distributed to a gathering of the world’s top astronomers meeting in Cape Town on 25 February 2009 as an example of local science communication.
Zee’s adventures and most of their other stories are packaged in 8-page A4 comic books – a format that is easy to print and distribute. Once developed and paid for, these cartoons are available for anyone to download and use, and even translate into other languages.
Go to http://www.jivemedia.co.za/science.html to access these cartoons.
Marina Joubert, SciDev.Net